Being from Germany and having worked in the German software industry for a few years, I can say that in most jobs (in larger companies) a software engineer will work 35-40 hours a week, with overtime either being compensated financially or by taking off these hours in the next weeks. An employee is forbidden to work more than 40 hours on average or more than 48 in any given week and an employer can and will be fined otherwise.

Now I am considering applying for software engineering jobs in the US, but I have heard from multiple sources, that one is expected to work 60 hours or more per week, which seems highly excessive to me. I would like to know if someone can provide me with first hand insight about this issue, since working more than say 45 hours per week (EDIT: on average) would be an absolute deal breaker.

  • I edited the question as to point out that I mean 45h/week on average. Obviously sometimes more hours are required, that should be no problem.
    – Chris
    Aug 16 '15 at 17:31
  • This would greatly depend on the organisation, its culture, workload, and available financial and human resources. My core hours have always been 40 hours a week, but there are times when crunch time has meant the occasional 80 hour week. It's been my experience that the better managed the project, the less likelihood there is of frequently putting in excessive hours.
    – Jane S
    Aug 17 '15 at 0:22
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not about navigating the workplace Aug 17 '15 at 1:54
  • Hmm... I would say this is more just "too broad" rather than not being about the workplace. Like the most highly-upvoted answer says, the correct answer to the question as written is "it depends." While, on average, 60 hour workweeks are highly unusual for software engineers in the U.S., there are certain niches in which it's not that unusual (though compensation in those will generally be higher to reflect that.) As a U.S. software engineer myself, all of the jobs I've worked or even applied for have been 40 hour work weeks (and I live in a relatively rural part of the U.S., not the Valley.)
    – reirab
    Sep 13 '15 at 4:59
  • 2
    I'm a salaried developer from the US. My workload is between 60 and 80 hours weekly. +1 by the way. The close reason for this question is bogus and is IN NO WAY COMPANY SPECIFIC. Aug 3 '16 at 4:23

It's not normal to do 60 hour weeks. You may end up doing a few in your career if the stuff hits the fan when you are trying to get a release out, but if you find yourself doing it often, then something is not right. Maybe it's you. Maybe it's them. Either way, it's not a good situation and you should look for a better one. On a well managed team, you will rarely have issues like this.

Doing 45 hours in week is definitely not unusual. I'm a contractor at the moment, so it's easy to avoid doing it (because they have to pay time and a half over 40 hours). But sometimes you just have to stay late for some reason. When I'm on salary (instead of hourly), I always find a way to make it up. If I work 42 hours one week, I might only work 38 the next. I usually manage to even it out.

  • how do you deal with clocking out early? doesn't the company say something if you clock < 40 hrs in a week? Feb 3 at 3:40

It depends.

It depends on where you are in the states, and it depends again on the industry you are in. And then, finally, it also depends on the team you are in too.

I have only ever worked as an IT consultant in the states (i.e.: never permanent staff). But I worked alongside my permanent staff brothers and sisters.

I have only worked in banking.

As a consultant, I was always encouraged to not work more than 40 hours; also, not less than 40 hours - it was exactly 40! There were a few times in San Francisco where I pulled a 1:00am day, twice now I think about it. I just billed more hours for that.

From the permanent staff point of view:

In San Francisco, nobody worked more than 40 hours. This is at a non-startup company though; think more v. large fund. If someone did work more hours, they were paid overtime for it. I think that is California law, no idea how startups supposedly squeeze so many hours out of people.

In New York, at a large investment bank, everybody worked about ten hour days. In at 8:45am, out at about 7:00pm-ish. More ambitious types worked much longer.

In New Jersey, at a banking "startup", everybody worked around 40 hours.

It is more company—and especially team—culture than anything else though. Asking at the interview will help.

  • +1 Basically you are saying it's the same as in Europe. It varies greatly between industry subfields (web/gaming vs. banking) and company culture (startup vs. established) - ... and even then it depends on the explicit company.
    – s1lv3r
    Aug 16 '15 at 8:14
  • Plus, it depends on the current state of the project -- deadlines, customer crises, that sort of thing. If you have a customer who is literally giving up a million dollars in sales every minute your software is malfunctioning, you'd darned well better be willing to make some sacrifices to help them -- because whether you do or don't will show up in your performance evaluation. That doesn't mean it's an every-day occurrence for all developers in all projects in all companies, and a good company and manager will let you recover some of that in flex-time when there isn't a crisis.
    – keshlam
    Aug 16 '15 at 14:24
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    Great answer. Here's some practical suggestions for how to ask about this in an interview in a non-awkward way, too.
    – enderland
    Aug 16 '15 at 17:43

Depends very much on the industry and the company.

Startup, games, bank(trading) expect to work 60hours as standard and 80-100 crunch time. Work most weekends, no vacations and no statutory holidays.

Utlitities, government, corporates are probably still 40-45 hours and probably 10days vacation, US corporations seem very much more time spent at desk orientated than europeans.

  • Who works 60 hours "standard"? The answers suggesting you may do a 60-hour week occasionally make sense, but imagine week after week always having to stay late every single day of the week at the office. Your productivity will decrease and you will want to get out of there. In whose interest is it to promote that?
    – Brandin
    Aug 17 '15 at 6:44
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    @Brasndin, there are management teams who don't recognize that employees are human beings who get tired. Indeed people do work those hours for weeks/months on end at many start-ups and game shops. There is a reason why they are mostly populated by the young and single. No one else would consent to being treated like a serf. It is self defeating and the product actually takes longer to get to market, but people persist in thinking people should do it. I once had a boss tell me I should be able to go at least three days without sleep. Took me less than a month after that before I left.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 17 '15 at 19:06

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